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The ryotwari system was a land revenue system in British India introduced by Thomas Munro, which allowed the government to deal directly with the cultivator ('ryot') for revenue collection and gave the peasant freedom to cede or acquire new land for cultivation.
This system was in operation for nearly 5 years and had many features of revenue system of the Mughals. It was instituted in some parts of India, one of the three main systems used to collect revenues from the cultivators of agricultural land. These taxes included un differentiated land revenue and rents, collected simultaneously. Where the land revenue was imposed directly on the [ryots] (the individual cultivators who actually worked the land) the system of assessment was known as ryotwari. Where the land revenue was imposed indirectly through agreements made with [Zamindars] the system of assessment was known as zamindari. In Bombay, Madras, Assam and Burma the Zamindar usually did not have a position as a middleman between the government and the farmer.
An official report by John Stuart Mill, who was working for the East India Company in 1857, explained the Ryotwari land tenure system as follows:
Under the Ryotwari System every registered holder of land is recognised as its proprietor, and pays direct to Government. He is at liberty to sublet his property, or to transfer it by gift, sale, or mortgage. He cannot be ejected by Government so long as he pays the fixed assessment, and has the option annually of increasing or diminishing his holding, or of entirely abandoning it. In unfavourable seasons remissions of assessment are granted for entire or partial loss of produce. The assessment is fixed in money, and does not vary from year to year, in those cases where water is drawn from a Government source of irrigation to convert dry land into wet, or into two-crop land, when an extra rent is paid to Government for the water so appropriated; nor is any addition made to the assessment for improvements effected at the Ryot's own expense. The Ryot under this system is virtually a Proprietor on a simple and perfect title, and has all the benefits of a perpetual lease without its responsibilities, in as much as he can at any time throw up his lands, but cannot be ejected so long as he pays his dues; he receives assistance in difficult seasons, and is irresponsible for the payment of his neighbours... The Annual Settlements under Ryotwari are often misunderstood, and it is necessary to explain that they are rendered necessary by the right accorded to the Ryot of dimi Rapeg or extending his cultivation from year to year. Their object is to determine how much of the assessment due on his holding the Ryot shall pay, and not to reassess the land. In these cases where no change occurs in the Ryots holding a fresh Patta or lease is not issued, and such parties are in no way affected by the Annual Settlement, which they are not required to attend.
The Ryotwari system is associated with the name of Thomas Munro, who was appointed Governor of Madras in May 1820. Subsequently, the Ryotwari system was extended to the Bombay area. Munro gradually reduced the rate of taxation from one half to one third of the gross produce, even then an excessive tax.
In Northern India, Edward Colebrooke and successive Governors-General had implored the Court of Directors of the East India Company, in vain, to redeem the pledge given by the British government, and to permanently settle the land-tax, so as to make it possible for the people to accumulate wealth and improve their own condition.
Payment of the land tax in cash, rather than in kind, was instituted in the late 18th century when the East India Company wanted to establish an exclusive monopoly in the market as buyers of Indian goods. The requirement of cash payments frequently proved economically untenable for cultivators, exposing them to the exorbitant demands of moneylenders when crops failed.
Dissimilar to permanent settlement in the British territories in the south, a new system that was devised came to be known as the ryotwari. It was tried on a small scale by Alexander Read in some areas that were taken over by the company after the war with the Tipu Sultan.
In Bengal and Northern India the zamindari system was as follows
To collect tax from a land, the British had zamindars bid for the highest tax rates; zamindars quoted a tax rate that they promised to obtain from a particular land.
The highest bidder was made the owner of the land from which they collected the taxes.
The farmers and cultivators who owned the land lost their ownership and became tenants in their own land.
They were to pay the landlords/zamindars the tax for the land only in the form of cash and not in kind.
If a zamindar was not able to collect the quoted amount of tax, he lost the ownership.
By comparison, this is the way taxes had been collected by the king
The tax could be paid either in cash or in kind.
Payments in kind were mostly in the form of land which was given to the king.
The king never made use of those lands, which could be bought back by the farmers after they got back some money.
The farmer owned his land.
Tax rates were reduced in case of a famine, bad weather or other serious event.
Ryotwari & Mahalwari Systems Of Land Revenue In British India [NCERT Notes for Modern Indian History For UPSC]
Land revenue systems in British India were Zamindari, Ryotwari and Mahalwari. Download Land Revenue Systems in British India PDF Notes. Part of NCERT Modern Indian History Notes for UPSC IAS exam. For Civil Services Exam preparation 2023, visit BYJU'S
IAS PreparationNCERT Notes for UPSCNCERT Notes Ryotwari And Mahalwari Systems Of Land Revenue
Land Revenue Systems In British India - Ryotwari, Mahalwari [NCERT Notes for Modern Indian History For UPSC]
This article talks about the important land revenue systems under the British government.
Apart from the Permanent Settlement, there were other kinds of land revenue systems under the British in India. These were the Ryotwari and the Mahalwari systems.
Download the Land Revenue Systems In British India notes PDF from the link provided below.Land Revenue Systems In British India (UPSC Notes):-Download PDF Here
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This system of land revenue was instituted in the late 18th century by Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras in 1820.
This was practised in the Madras and Bombay areas, as well as Assam and Coorg provinces.
In this system, the peasants or cultivators were regarded as the owners of the land. They had ownership rights, could sell, mortgage or gift the land.
The taxes were directly collected by the government from the peasants.
The rates were 50% in dryland and 60% in the wetland.
The rates were high and unlike the Permanent System, they were open to being increased.
If they failed to pay the taxes, they were evicted by the government.
Ryot means peasant cultivators.
Here there were no middlemen as in the Zamindari system. But, since high taxes had to be paid only in cash (no option of paying in kind as before the British) the problem of moneylenders came into the show. They further burdened the peasants with heavy interests.
The Mahalwari system was introduced by Holt Mackenzie in 1822 and it was reviewed under Lord William Bentinck in 1833.
This system was introduced in North-West Frontier, Agra, Central Province, Gangetic Valley, Punjab, etc.
This had elements of both the Zamindari and the Ryotwari systems.
This system divided the land into Mahals. Sometimes, a Mahal was constituted by one or more villages.
The tax was assessed on the Mahal.
Each individual farmer gave his share.
Here also, ownership rights were with the peasants.
Revenue was collected by the village headman or village leaders.
It introduced the concept of average rents for different soil classes.
The state share of the revenue was 66% of the rental value. The settlement was agreed upon for 30 years.
This system was called the Modified Zamindari system because the village headman virtually became a Zamindar.
Ryotwari and Mahalwari Systems of Land Revenue are important topics of history subject covered in the UPSC Syllabus. Get the list of GS 1 to 4 topics asked by UPSC in the linked article.
There are plenty of books from where you can read more information about this topic, find the complete list of NCERT books needed for UPSC preparation.
Consequences of the British land revenue systems
Land became a commodity.
Earlier there was no private ownership of land. Even kings and cultivators did not consider land as his ‘private property’.
Due to the very high taxes, farmers resorted to growing cash crops instead of food crops. This led to food insecurity and even famines.
Taxes on agricultural produce were moderate during pre-British times. The British made it very high.
Insistence on cash payment of revenue led to more indebtedness among farmers. Moneylenders became landowners in due course.
Bonded labour arose because loans were given to farmers/labourers who could not pay it back.
When India achieved freedom from colonial rule, 7% of the villagers (Zamindars/landowners) owned 75% of the agricultural land.Land Revenue Systems In British India (UPSC Notes):-Download PDF Here
British’s actions have also led to many revolts and uprisings, some of which aspirants can read in the linked articles in the table below:
Indigo Rebellion Socio-Religious Movements of 18th & 19th Century Peasant Movements in 19th Century
Popular Uprisings by Deposed Chieftains Paika Rebellion Santhal Revolt
ryotwari system, one of the three principal methods of revenue collection in British India. It was prevalent in most of southern India, being the standard system of the Madras Presidency (a British-controlled area now constituting much of present-day Tamil Nadu and portions of neighbouring states). The system was devised by Capt. Alexander Read and Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Munro at the end of the 18th century and introduced by the latter when he was governor (1820–27) of Madras (now Chennai). The principle was the direct collection of the land revenue from each individual cultivator by government agents. For this purpose
Indian tax system
By The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Article History
Related Topics: India taxation
See all related content →ryotwari system, one of the three principal methods of revenue collection in British India. It was prevalent in most of southern India, being the standard system of the Madras Presidency (a British-controlled area now constituting much of present-day Tamil Nadu and portions of neighbouring states). The system was devised by Capt. Alexander Read and Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Munro at the end of the 18th century and introduced by the latter when he was governor (1820–27) of Madras (now Chennai). The principle was the direct collection of the land revenue from each individual cultivator by government agents. For this purpose all holdings were measured and assessed according to crop potential and actual cultivation. The advantages of this system were the elimination of intermediaries, who often oppressed villagers, and an assessment of the tax on land actually cultivated and not merely occupied. Offsetting these advantages was the cost of detailed measurement and individual collection. This system also gave much power to subordinate revenue officials, whose activities were inadequately supervised.
The name of the system comes from the word ryot, an Anglicization by the British in India of the Arabic word raʿiyyah, meaning a peasant or cultivator. The Arabic word passed into Persian (raʿeyyat) and was carried by the Mughals, who used it throughout India in their revenue administration. The British borrowed the word from them and continued to use it for revenue purposes in the Anglicized form. The word has passed into various Indian languages, but in northern India the Hindi term kisan is generally used.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Zeidan.